First Laughs

Opera House, Wellington

20/04/2008 - 20/04/2008

NZ International Comedy Festival 2007-09, 2013

Production Details

Those who laugh first, laugh best

Hold on to your hats folks, it’s showtime! The New Zealand International Comedy Festival 2008 is ready to blow through Wellington like a hurricane of hilarity, kicking off with the gala premier of FIRST LAUGHS, the opening night showcase of the biggest laughs in town.

Following last years hugely successful Comedy Festival, which saw Wellingtonians flock to comedy events in unprecedented numbers, this year’s festival is bigger than ever before.

First Laughs kicks off the festival on Sunday, April 20 at The Opera House on Manners Street. Hosted by local boy done good, Dai Henwood, First Laughs brings together the talents of Arj Barker of Flight of the Conchords fame (USA), Josie Long (England), John Fothergill (England), Ben Hurley (NZ), and 2008 Billy T Award nominees The Lonesome Buckwhips, Simon McKinney and Steve Wrigley.

The move from last year’s venue the Paramount Theatre to The Opera House has been made due to audience demand with sell out houses in 2006 and 2007. Tickets are on sale now and audiences are advised to book ahead for this high profile and fast selling event. 

The New Zealand International Comedy Festival begins in Wellington on April 20 and ends on May 10, featuring a world-class line up of local and international comedians appearing in 41 shows, delivered across 173 performances at 12 venues. 

International headliners include Flight of the Conchords’ Arj Barker (US), Ireland’s David O’Doherty, Scotland’s unmissable Janey Godley, if.comedy Best Newcomer award winner Josie Long and Tony Lee from Canada. Also, be sure to check out The Big Show international comedy showcase featuring Neil Delamere (Ire), John Fothergill (UK), Eddie Ifft (US) and Aussie Mickey D.

Kiwi talent is led by NZ’s favourite bogan Ewen Gilmour, femme fatales Michele A’Court and Emma Olsen, local comedy icons Steve Wrigley and Cori Gonzalez-Macuer, high profile ex-pat Ben Hurley, and award winners Jeremy Elwood and Jerome Chandrahasen.

3 hrs incl. interval

Taste of a Festival worth attending

Review by Thomas LaHood 22nd Apr 2008

Three hours is a long time to sit and watch people be funny.  I left the venue feeling sweaty and exhausted from continually smiling and clapping through the acts.  But as a ‘sampler’ of potential shows to visit in this Comedy Fest, I have to say it was a tasty selection with nary a dud in the box.

Dai Henwood makes a great host.  I reckon he’s phenomenal on stage, strutting around in a sort of fruity macho manner that’s redolent of Spanish or Latino culture.  But heaps more laid back, ay!  Laid back, and INTENSE.  That’s Dai.  With him on board, there’s no way there’ll be a lull between sets.

The comedy spanned a great range over the evening – although with these short sets you don’t get very deep into content or theme, it’s more about delivery and style.  And we saw the gamut, from Jerome Chandrahasen’s meek geek with a whiteboard singing plaintively about Laika the space-dog to Steve Wrigley (hybrid offspring of "Axl Rose and a Teletubbie") ranting about paranoid episodes in an Amsterdam coffee-shop with his arms flailing all over the place.

Chandrahasen’s bit definitely sits at the soft end of the spectrum, and is somehow both quirky and old hat at the same time.  I enjoyed his performance but felt he dropped a few balls with his pacing.  I also suspect his style is not well suited to these kind of showcase gigs and that his humour will work better as part of an entire show.

Josie Long (UK) is similarly askew in relation to the rest of the line-up, but much more confident and original.  Long is endearingly upbeat, a bit mad, and definitely pioneering some new approaches to joke-telling.  I look forward to her show and where she can take us with a whole set to herself.

Wrigley has had a very hardworking year so far and it seems like he’s really pulling out the stops.  His delivery was high-octane and pretty wild.  His material is great, although at times when his delivery gets out of control he verges on crass.

Irene Pink is a real joy – subverting her audience’s expectations expertly and somehow pulling off some extremely off-colour gags without ever being offensive.

Jeremy Elwood is in fine form too, with a sharper brand of humour – he is one of the few who is prepared to introduce political content.  So do The Lonesome Buckwhips, who have polished up a couple of their numbers and excitingly added a scathing new one that really puts the boot into Christchurch!  They’re a class act.

Arj Barker (US) was probably the stand-out performance of the night.  He seemed stoned, almost to the point of walking off the front of the stage.  But his delivery was outstanding.  "I get so pissed off with mattress shopping!" – What a gambit!  The whole audience was wondering where he was going with that, and it turned out to be somewhere pretty damn funny.

Of the rest – Simon McKinney, James Nokise, John Fothergill (UK), Vinyl Burns and a wonderfully bleak Cori Gonzalez-Macuer, were also of very fine quality. 

Ben Hurley for me stood out as slightly too shabby and smutty – that’s his schtick, but presented alongside some of the other acts of the night it didn’t look so great.  And Mrs. Peacock started with some very fine banter, but the poos and wees lyrics of their musical numbers weren’t enough to elevate them above seeming like pretenders to the Flight Of The Conchords throne.

It’s simply too large a line-up for me to cover in any more detail than that, but I’d like to reiterate that, actually, there was a lot of great comedy in there, and it’s a good sign for a Festival worth attending.
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